With its gasp-inducingly preface, 28 Weeks Later
, the sequel to 2002’s superb innovation 28 Days Later
, will frighten the bejesus out of you—making the rest of the film and the hinted-at political statement therein all the better.
Heavily derived from George A. Romero’s zombie pictures (all of them), it seems impossible that 28 Weeks Late
r would work, as horror movie sequels rarely do. What’s more, this one seems to recycle ideas more than other sequels. Fans of the zombie subgenre will identify familiar themes from Land of the Dead
and Day of the Dead
, but director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (Inacto
) gives his story consuming intrigue via staggering aesthetics, which allow us to forget any resemblance to previous material and succumb to his own set of rules.
Fresnadillo builds a more personal narrative in a film that has a scale grander than its precursor (the director offers a number of such contradictions). While reconstruction commences after the initial outbreak of the “Rage Virus”, American soldiers occupy London, attempting to repopulate and secure the previously infection-ridden city. Yet when the camera shows us survivors standing on barren city streets, it offers a city squalor subtext worthy of Baudelaire, complete with an odd sense of claustrophobia. The presence or even notion of The Infected instills the perception of limited space. There’s nowhere to run, not when a crowd of Infected are chasing after you—we learn this early on as a swarm of them pursue Robert Carlyle’s character Don through an open field. With seemingly endless space to move, there’s also nowhere to go. Later on, the city becomes that open field.
Don’s children, in school in Spain during the initial outbreak, return home to find that U.S. military personnel are everywhere. Masses of Infected bodies are burned openly. London is under quarantine; the military has fenced-off only a small section of the city for survivors and those returning from abroad. Don’s teenage daughter Tammy (Imogen Poots) and his twelve-year-old son Andy (Mackintosh Muggleton—a name any J.K. Rowling fan should enjoy) become the first children allowed back into England. Upon arriving, they ask about their mother; Don explains the horrifying events depicted in the prologue, which, if I describe here, I’d be ruining two major secrets for you.
Suffice it to say that the quarantine doesn’t hold and the infection returns. Tammy and Andy are then thrust into a grim situation. When the “Rage Virus” starts penetrating crowds of civilians, we see what was only described with words in 28 Days Later
: a manic mob swelling and popping like a blood-filled boil. Infected bite and vomit their contagion while helpless masses run in fear. These explicit and panicky scenes are filmed with such energy that you’ll be covering your mouth in shock as you see the military’s tighly-knit organization unravel.
Ordered to shoot down and eliminate any possibility of the virus spreading, soldiers fire into the crowd, taking down everyone, infected or not. The military element provides a minor connection to the Iraqi War, an image not dwelled on by the film, but alluded to just enough to show that this film has the same criticism of “civilization” as the first picture. One of the snipers (Jeremy Renner) gets Andy in his sights, and, refusing to fire on a child, he abandons his post to get the children to safety. With the city’s power shuts down and in the deafening blackness of night, the city becomes a collection of looming, tangible shadows—something so massively dark we can’t help but squirm in anticipation for what’s around the corner. Several times the film relies on darkness, and thus what might linger in that obscurity, to terrify us.
Anticipative scenes make us tremble, while the gory violence of The Infected shocks us with its contrastingly unfastened savagery; this combination of styles attests to the filmmaker’s skill. Fresnadillo carefully interchanges between moments of calm and moments of frenzied, hopeless chaos. Filmic rhythm was equally important to Danny Boyle, director of 28 Days Later
and executive producer of this film.
With this sequel and its predecessor handling parallel themes and identical pacing, one might think the similarities would appear repetitive, but 28 Weeks Later
becomes its own story from the intense opening. Only in a very basic way do the films follow a similar path. Each has its own set of characters, allowing The Infected, and then the military, to accomplish the rest. In contrast to the first picture, the ending is appropriately dismal, underlining the post-apocalyptic aspect of the series’ structure, but also leaving room for what is now a much-welcomed sequel, possibly making this a tidy horror trilogy.